June 04, 2022 by Arden Montgomery
Meet the Maker: Madeleine Herbeau, Château Barbebelle
“I want to carry on my grandmother’s legacy of producing great quality wines, and more importantly supporting our sustainable ecosystem that we have created on this property”
With the Herbeau family at the helm, Château Barbebelle is one of the oldest vineyards in Aix en Provence. Lands cultivated by the Romans, it lies in the heart of protected wildlife between cypress and pine trees. The grape varieties of the appellation are settled on a homogeneous terroir of clayey-limestone slopes on a hilly relief, favorable to viticulture and very representative of Provence. They own and cultivate 45 hectares of vines that enjoy copious amounts of sunshine. The rugged relief ensures good ventilation and the average altitude of the vineyard – 370 meters – gives them cool, fresh nights even in the midst of summer. The dry mistral de Provence makes it easy for them to farm sustainably.
Visiting this property really brings a whole new understanding to the terroir in these wines. Provence rose as a category is a very recognizable wine style, but being slightly higher in elevation and nestled up in the woods gives these wines a distinct ‘je ne sais pas’. The property is 300 hectares and filled with Cypress trees and wildlife. Madeleine’s passion and love for animals is so apparent when we took a walk through the vineyards with their mini-horses, and tasted wines in the winery with their dogs. At sunset, we took a drive in her father’s 1990 Landrover Defender through the steeper parts of the property and saw deer wandering through the vines and grazing. It is a magical place that truly embodies sustainable lifestyle as a whole. The wines pair well with whatever is in season at their local farmers markets. Soaking up the scenery was all I needed to fall even more in love with this winery and these wines.
The Cuvee Madeleine was named by Madeleine’s father, his favorite cuvee. This rosé is the perfect transition wine to take you from l’apéro on the patio to apéro dînatoire. With slightly richer flavors than the Fleurie Cuvee, this is the perfect way to kick off your casual summer dinner party.
Château Barbebelle Aix-en-Provence ‘Cuvée Madeleine’ Rosé: A classic blend of Grenache, Syrah, & Cinsault, this Provence rosé is dry and aromatic with hints of rose water, geranium, strawberry, and red raspberry. It has minerality and precision that follows through to a very long finish.
Madeleine Herbeau is now a 4th generation winemaker alongside her husband, Valentin Premmereur, and oenologist Thomas Benard. Their passion for quality, typicity, and precision in their wines are unparalleled. They make a great team, and share the common goal of bringing high-quality, delicious wines that speak to the terroir of Aix en Provence.
Among many other animals, there are two adorable mini horses that live on the property. One of which is only 8 months old and his name is “Let’s Go”
Property has strong female roots, her grandmother was the one who purchased the land. Madeleine is a 4th generation winemaker in her family.
Farming organically since the property was purchased by her grandmother, but in the process of becoming certified now.
“I want our wines to represent the terroir of this place”
Here’s an interview between Lexi and Madeleine…
Who were/are your mentors?: My father, who lives on the property still and is on property most days
Describe your Farming: In conversion to be certified organic
What is so special about the wine that comes from this area?: The soils. They are a little more calcareous limestone than the typical garigue in Provence.
Why do you make wine? As a winemaker do you take a creative or academic approach to it?: Making wine is a lifestyle I love. It is my creative outlet.
When selling your wine in the US, what is the most important thing you would want us to communicate about your brand and/or the wines you make?: To communicate the terroir, communicate the culture, and to have a bottle of this and slow down American way of life and savor like the French
What are your favorite foods to pair with your wines?: “I love to cook. I do not go to the market to shop for food to make a recipe, I go to the market to see what’s fresh and in season and then cook something from that. The fresh produce from the area will pair nicely with the wines naturally because they are coming from similar terroir and climate.”
Tell us about the property: The land was purchased by my great grandmother, 300 hectares. About 150 are under vine. It is a very nice feeling to be continuing the matriarch culture here on my property. The area that we are in is basically the forest. We are surrounded by woods and wildlife roams the property at sunset every evening. The house was built in the 17th century, we live in it today as well as renting out some rooms. My husband, Valentin, and I now run the property. We work hard to continue my great grandmother’s legacy.
What is the difference in quality between large production and small production wineries? The fact of producing in the family for 4 generations allows us to maintain a very good quality from year to year. Customers know what to expect when they buy our wines. They know the origin and history of wine. Our estate is conducted reasonably and with great balance. That is why it is still in the hands of our family. We make a lot of thoughtful investments.
What is so special about the terroir that you work with? The terroir is magnificent, north of Aix-en-Provence on the Luberon road. We are 400 meters above sea level, limestone soil, lots of sun and wind! Our 50 hectares of vines are divided between 250 hectares of woods and wildlife. The best plots have been selected from generation to generation.
What activity besides making wine, does your family like to do? We have a great seasonal rental activity at the estate. We welcome holidaymakers in pretty houses: from studios for 2 people to houses for 10 people. We also organize events, concerts, and private dinners in the grounds of the Château.
When and where are you happiest? When I’m on horseback: in the woods or on a competition field!
What life achievement are you the most proud of? The fact of working as a family and being surrounded by a team with us, which is great. It seems that they are happy in Barbebelle, and the atmosphere is excellent!
What winemakers do you most admire? I really like the work of Peter Fischer at Château Revelette. He is very approachable and passionate. I also admire the work of a friend who created his estate in Bandol from scratch: Baraveou, Jean Philippe Fourney
What motto do you live by? I am very speedy, I like things to move forward and be done in the moment.
How do you relax/decompress? Horseback riding is my passion. But competing isn’t always very relaxing! It’s sporty and adrenaline-charged!
What do you drink when you are not drinking wine? Belgium Beer!